I really do spoil my guests

My receptions are, just like the ambassador’s, noted for their host’s exquisite taste. And yes, I really do spoil my guests. My weekend, and the many weeks leading up to it, was spent planning and executing a drinks and canapé party to celebrate James’ birthday. It was not the weekend of choice but owing to a stag night on said weekend, we postponed by a week and we played host at the weekend.

It was an ambitious affair on my part but thanks to my extensive planning (and some of the tools of the trade that I have learnt over the year) it was executed perfectly and I was extremely happy with the way that everything went. The only thing that I would have preferred was for certain sectors of the guest list to be a bit more dressed for the occasion but then these were not my friends, and different groups do things differently.

In total, I think that the whole party took approximately 22 days to organise and was probably a little longer in development. Invitations were sent out at the end of September but despite this the guest list was not finalised until the day itself. After finding a suitable image to accompany the invitation, one that suggested fun and frivolity with a touch of class, some lengthy discussions as to how many people I could reasonably cater for, it was emailed out to the selected.

The discussion over the canapé menu seemed never ending; it might have been somewhat shorter had certain people engaged with the task more fully. It was almost as if I had too many things that I wanted to try out, it doesn’t help that I have several books dedicated to canapés and spend a quantity of my time trawling through the BBC Good Food website looking for ideas. There were many items in contention but I eventually settled on just the 14, 13 savoury and then cake.

In order to achieve this mammoth task I started cooking a week in advance, making as much as was humanly possible that could go in the freezer and be ignored for a week. So post-shopping on the proceeding Saturday, I spent approximately 6 hours in my kitchen during which time I produced 60 gingered pork wontons, 50 lamb koftas, 40 Thai chicken bites, what seemed like a million crostinis and parmesan thins, and cleaned it the kitchen top to bottom. Possibly the most onerous of these tasks was grating nearly 200g of parmesan – not only time consuming (and fairly dull), but also very tiring. Most importantly perhaps, I arranged for the alcohol to be delivered so that there would no worries about it arriving in time.

I also spent Friday evening, post work and post gym, sorting things out. This included making 32 (the correct number) tiny cakes, removing all previously made items from the freezer (I was quite worried that I would forget to do this), cleaning and decorating the house. Perhaps to saying “decorating the house” is rather over-stating what I did but I put fairy lights up in the front room around the window and some coloured paper lanterns in the kitchen to make everything look festive. The rest of the decoration took the form of the food, and candles both inside and outside. I used the tea light bags and was so pleased with how pretty they looked and how welcoming they made the house look.

Saturday was obviously busy although not manic. I went shopping on the North End road for the last bits of ingredients and then set about creating. There were no dramas to report and I had plenty of time. Inevitably there was the last minute rush as so many things cannot be put together until the very last minute which does lead to a certain amount of pressure but it was all dealt with but there were plenty of people around me (lots of early people) who helped to bring everything together in the last few minutes. I was extremely pleased with the cakes which I decorated to look like miniature 99s with flakes in honour of James’ ice cream escapades over the summer. In the end I settled on just the 1 candle, I really wanted to go with the whole 32 but it just seemed too much like hard work to light that many.

It is true what my mother has always told me, it doesn’t matter how much food you make, it will always all be eaten and she was right; there wasn’t anything left, not even sausage, not that there were any but you get my drift. Perhaps that statement isn’t quite true as there are some gingered pork wontons still in my freezer and some left over crostini and parmesan thins but these items were never on offer at the party. If they had been out then I am confident that they would have been consumed along with everything else.

Although the majority of the work was undertaken by myself, I was be remise of me not the acknowledge the following people without whose help things wouldn’t have run so smoothly: my brother who made the crostini toppings on the Friday for me and who helped by tasting things, James for not only having a birthday and providing a guest list but also for purchasing the alcohol and lighting the candles, and most importantly for doing all of the clearing up, Harriet for her photography and candle lighting skills, Ewan for supervising James, and Dave for so beautifully adding the basil to the crostini and for his sterling work in pouring the Bloody Mary into the shot glasses, adding the cucumber stirrer and the horseradish cream.

The full selection of canapés

Tomato & Basil Crostini

Smoked Salmon & Dill Crostini

Roasted Tomato & Feta on Rosemary Parmesan Thins

Mozarella & Basil Pesto on Black Olive Parmesan Thins

Thai Fish Cakes with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Gingered Pork Wontons with Chilli Dipping Sauce

Thai Chicken Brochettes with Cucumber & Chilli Dipping Sauce

Lamb Koftas with Mint Yoghurt Dipping Sauce

Asian Beef Salad in Lettuce Leaf Cups

Sticky Squash with Sesame Seeds

Grilled Halloumi with Parsley & Lemon Salsa

Bloody Mary Shots

Mini Jacket Potatoes topped with Sour Cream & Lumpfish Roe

Bite-sized Vanilla Cakes with Vanilla Bean Cream

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